The fourth quarter is generally the time of year in which we simultaneously gear up for a new year and reflect on the previous one. While we are very excited about what 2019 will bring, it doesn’t feel quite right to be talking about the new year just yet. So let’s take a look back at what we’ve learned in relation to eCommerce trends in 2018.
At almost every trade show we attended this year, the message was clear: Efficiency is undoubtedly the name of the game. The various systems upon which businesses run need to be smart and need to be talking to one another in order to create a smooth transaction.
For example, the inventory management system (IMS) ensures that the point of sale (POS) knows if an item is in stock and then the warehouse management system (WMS) will show where it’s in stock. The transportation management system (TMS) will then calculate how long it will take to ship and, of course, the all-important cost of delivery. If the system is using a robust set of application program interfaces (APIs), this is all being done in real time in the shopping cart. If yours is not, it might be time to talk to us!
Getting all of these systems to work in harmony isn’t easy, especially if you’re currently running on antiquated programs or limited budgets. However, there are services out there to help manage these types of integrations, and it is certainly worth investing some time to see which technical upgrades can take your business to the next level.
Building a user experience (UX) that makes the purchasing process effortless is paramount, and this applies in both B2C and B2B environments. However, effortless may not be enough; consumers are now looking to build trust with vendors that are responsive to their individual needs.
Companies are responding by coming up with increasingly creative ways to engage their customers, and while some of the technology is incredibly impressive, some of it can be downright creepy!
At a recent eCommerce summit, one company spoke on wanting to target their customers at just the right time. This meant knowing when a busy parent was finally able to relax and browse on their phone, so they are finding ways to leverage the physical position of the user’s phone to know if they are upright and moving around or laying down on the couch.
While this particular example is extreme, there are other notable technologies being employed by merchants who want to take UX and customer engagement to the next level. Augmented reality (AR) allows a furniture brand to provide its consumers an instant and realistic view of how a piece of furniture would look in their own living room, while artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for consumers to snap a photo of something they like and instantly find it in an online store.
This kind of instant gratification needs to be satisfied throughout the buying process, and one way to accomplish this is to go digital. The digital first or digital by default approach encourages businesses to prioritize digital channels over more conventional ones. Think online catalog versus a physical one.
With a digital catalog, consumers gain access to so much more information almost instantly and can very quickly move to the buying process. This doesn’t mean that the tangible catalog is obsolete; plenty of consumers still prefer thumbing through paper pages to clicking through web pages. Perhaps it brings them back to their childhood when they’d rifle through the Toys “R” Us booklet to make their holiday wish list?
Regardless, making your brand available in both forms of media is an increasingly popular movement and not just in the B2C environment. Generations are shifting, and now digital natives are responsible for purchasing decisions at companies, and it’s likely that they’ll be more keen to work in an environment they are familiar with. At ReTrans Freight, we’ve made the leap and turned our freight management portal into an iOS app, so we are practicing what we preach!
It’s clear that eCommerce has changed the game forever. Customers will continue to demand a seamless and gratifying buying experience and the ways in which merchants deliver this experience will continue to evolve. We’re hitting the eCommerce trade show circuit again in 2019 and looking forward to learning more eCommerce trends and how we can apply them within the freight industry.